From: "Michael A. Terrell"
Subject: Re: Questions on EE job market.
Date: Thu, 31 Oct 2002 07:32:04 -0500
Organization: Have you seen my bench? No, really! Where is it?
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Chuck Simmons wrote:
> "Michael A. Terrell" wrote:
> > Chuck Simmons wrote:
> > >
> > > Actually, I've known a number of people with military histories that are
> > > similar to mine and to yours. I think Kevin will dislike me still more.
> > > Back in 1969 when I got my letter, although my enthusiasm was extremely
> > > low for the military, I realized that by enlisting I might be able to
> > > make satisfactory arrangements up front. Therefore, I visited a
> > > recruiter. He arranged testing and showed me my options which seemed to
> > > be limited only by starting dates for training. I picked 5 MOSs I
> > > considered to be appropriate to my experience. So I reported in Oakland,
> > > CA on the 5th of July rather than in Phoenix, Az on the 6th.
> > Now I am fighting with the VA over medical benefits. It took about
> > nine months to get my VA medical card only to be told that I have to
> > wait 21 to 25 months to see a doctor. I am currently unable to work
> > more than an hour or two per day, and it is getting quite old. When I
> > was younger I could pick up a V-8 short block. Now, 20 pounds is more
> > than I can handle, most days. I'm glad you knew other guys that didn't
> > go the normal route through their time in the service. I didn't have
> > that luxury, and I caught a lot of hell because I refused to play by
> > their rules. The first day at the TV station the station manager told
> > me that there wasn't a civilian who knew anything about electronics, and
> > he didn't believe I could do my job because I didn't spend time at Ft
> > Monmoth. He pulled every dirty trick he could to get me in trouble, but
> > I had friends in the right places. It is fun to remember those days,
> > and that they never managed to get me down.
> Maybe I was lucky. I don't know. It was a purely technical unit. My
> first day at the transmitter site after a bus ride of about 15 miles on
> dirt roads, I was greeted by the sergeant major who was in charge. He
> said they had been waiting for me and I would be working with SFC Petty
> who was in charge of maintenance. Petty had come from a small town in
> the Ozarks if I remember correctly and had learned everything he knew
> about his job in the army. Far from resentful of me, he had been looking
> forward to having someone like me to pass on his detailed knowledge of
> the site to because he was scheduled to leave in a few months. And, in
> about two years time, I had his problem because my time was running out.
> I had to "pass the torch" so to say.
> From day one until I climbed the stairs onto the Boeing 720B that took
> me on my first leg of the journey home, I had been among people I liked.
> Not just the people I worked with but also the people of the country.
> The only real friction I had was with the company first sargeant who
> disliked me very much. He was a fair man and his dislike was never put
> into action against me. Shortly before I left, he once got accidentally
> trapped with me at the NCO club when everyone else at the table left for
> work. He lightened up considerably to make the best of it and we had an
> actual conversation for the first time in more than two years. I decided
> that in spite of contrary indications, he was actually human.
> I never really knew the CO, Colonel Higgs, when I was there even though
> he created some of my worst problems. He figured that since there was no
> such thing as depot level for us that we could do depot level on
> anything so occasionally, I was working on equipment I had never seen
> before and had no proper test equipment for. In the long run, however, I
> considered him a better CO than the previous one who didn't seem to
> understand what we did and decided to play it safe and do nothing.
> Colonel Higgs had confidence in his men and we all knew it. My feeling
> seems to be widespread in that at the next Kagnew Station reunion, there
> are plans to honor Colonel Higgs at a special dinner. I plan to be there
> if possible.
> We actually had a tradition in our unit. When you got to the top of the
> steps to get onto the plane out, it was obligatory to face the airport
> terminal and make a certain obscene gesture. This was especially
> required of people like me who were out of the army when they left.
> Maybe I was lucky.
> ... The times have been,
> That, when the brains were out,
> the man would die. ... Macbeth
> Chuck Simmons email@example.com
Most of the people I worked with were ok. A few felt threatened that
someone could just walk in without going through their military schools
and do the job as well, or better than they could. When I arrived at Ft
Rucker the unit had four civilian techs, and two GIs. They were running
around like crazy trying to catch up on the workload. There was a
couple truckloads of large video monitors sitting in the shop that
needed repaired, and there was no preventive maintenance program in
place because it was all "civilian" equipment and no one had ever
written a procedure. They didn't have a truck for me to work in the
field, so I got busy and fixed all the spares, then got the other GIs to
work with me. We would load a truck, and take off with two trucks and
go to a control tower ready room or classroom area and start exchanging
all the monitors.
In just two months we were six months ahead on preventive maintenance,
and exchanged the rare fields failure so it could be serviced in the
shop. The head of the unit offered me a civil service job starting at a
GS12, and I turned it down. I worked with "A true southern gentleman"
and if I had stayed there I would have eventually gone crazy or ended up
in jail because I couldn't stand that lying, conniving carpet bagger.
I enjoyed myself in Alaska. here I was, a broadcast engineer, and
the closest I had been to that was being on a kiddy TV show twice when i
was in grade school. I dug out the manuals and started reading them
while I ran film, did transmitter maintenance, and produced a live
newscast each day. I decided there wasn't anything there I couldn't
repair, and got busy. Soon I had everything running smoothly, and was
bored, so I would sit at the console and read a book while running the
films, switching projectors by reflex, without looking up from my book.
I did have some fun at the station. A captain there was an amateur
astronomer and had taken pictures of comet Kahotek (sp?) and wanted to
show them on the station. He showed up several hours early and refused
to sit in a chair and stay out of my way. He figured that he outranked
me, so i pointed to a sign by the door of the control room and told him
to read it. The sign stated, "Operator on duty is in complete command
of this station." He came back and told me it didn't apply, because he
was an officer. So he continued to bug me with stupid questions while
leaning over my chair. I had to change projectors, and the film motor
didn't start so I jumped out of the chair to start it by hand. He was
right behind me as the chair went rolling back, and hit him with the big
knob on the back, then he stepped to the wrong side of the chair as I
turned towards the projector. I hit him with my shoulder and he went
down, and slid half way across the control room as I continued to the
projector to start it. After it was running I looked around and he was
sitting there brushing the dust off his uniform. He gave me a dirty
look, so I pointed at the sign and said, I warned you to stay out of my
way, because I don't just sit here when something fails. Then he
started laughing and said, You have great reflexes. I guess so. From
sitting at the console, to standing across the room and starting the
motor by hand in under two full seconds. I asked him to sit one more
time, and he agreed that it was a very good idea. He was afraid I might
knock him down again, if he got in the way.
Michael A. Terrell